House Panel: ‘No’ for Now to Base Closing

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A House subcommittee has rejected, again, a Defense Department appeal for another round of base closing and it also put off the shedding of excess property and facilities until two more force structure studies are completed. 

The readiness subcommittee plan of the House Armed Services Committee wants the Defense Department to prepare a comprehensive inventory of worldwide infrastructure and to take a look at the 20-year force structure plan of each of the services, comparing the two to determine if there really is an excess of facilities and installations. 

The services would be expected to err on the side of keeping excess infrastructure. In making infrastructure recommendations, lawmakers require the services to consider how much room is needed for contingencies, mobilization and surge capacity on top of providing space for existing force structure. 

In addition to the Defense Department report, the panel asks the Comptroller General of the United States to do its own evaluation of force structure plans and infrastructure inventory, after the Pentagon provides its report early next year.

Army leaders have pleaded with Congress to permit a 2017 round of base closings and to permit the Army to stop wasting money on excess property. Congress and communities that might be hurt by the closing of bases or reduction in infrastructure have been unpersuaded. 

Testifying in March before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Army Secretary John M. McHugh said he understood opposition to base closings from lawmakers and communities. “I went through three BRACs when I was a member of the House,” he said, referring to the base closing and realignment commission process. “I know how hard they are. I lost a base. It was one of the more painful things I have had to deal with in many, many years.” 

Base closing helps more communities than it hurts, he said. “Right now we are paying about $500 million a year, roughly, just to maintain empty infrastructure, unused infrastructure,” money that could spent on other things at other bases.